Florida is looking to join a list of states that allow residents to carry concealed firearms without a license. HB 543 (2023), referred to as “Constitutional Carry,” will enable residents to carry firearms without additional training or a permit, citing the 2nd amendment.
According to the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), 25 states currently allow permitless carry, with Alabama being the most recent to join on the 1st of this year. If the new bill passes, residents can carry without a license. Although residents would still be subjected to a background check to purchase firearms, restrictions on carrying in schools still stand.
As of now, Florida residents need a concealed carry license that requires a safety training course to carry a firearm legally. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, over 2.6 million concealed carry licenses have been issued as of December 31, 2022.
In March of last year, HB 103, a similar bill that aimed to allow carrying firearms without a license, died in the House of Representatives Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee.
In a press conference last April, Desantis stated, “The Legislature will get it done. I can’t tell you if it’s going to be next week, six months, but I can tell you that before I am done as governor, we will have a signature on that bill.”
With the introduction of the new bill, along with Republicans having a supermajority in the Florida Senate, Desantis is confident this will become law. The governor hopes to sign HB 543 (2023) after Florida’s legislative body reconvenes later this year and passes the bill.
Florida Republicans have consistently voiced their support for constitutional carry. In a press conference supporting the bill, Speaker Paul Renner stated, “Florida led the nation in allowing concealed carry and that extends today as we remove the government permission slip to require a permit to exercise a constitutional right.”
The bill has also gained support from many groups, including the Florida Sheriffs Association. With the president of FSA, Sheriff Al Nienhuis, and Sheriff Wayne Ivey voicing their support of Governor Desantis, Florida legislators, and sponsors for bringing this bill forward. Sheriff Wayne Ivey stated at the constitutional carry press conference, “It’s about time. Florida is taking this huge step and what we’re doing is checking off the box again, and showing that Florida is the freedom state.”
Many critics of the bill claim this will only lead to more gun violence. Entities like Prevent Gun Violence Florida, a nonprofit organization, have been fighting the bill since its introduction, releasing a statement voicing their disapproval:
“In an era of increased mass shootings and rising gun crime, it is outlandish that our Legislature is being asked to loosen gun restrictions rather than strengthen them. Lawmakers must immediately reject Florida’s legislators should instead focus their efforts on enacting common-sense gun laws that prioritize public safety, including universal background checks, banning military-style assault weapons, and safe storage laws.”